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Reporter’s Notebook: Concrete endures

Monday, November 30, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Happy Birthday, Shudde!… There wasn’t much going on at the last meeting of the Zoning and Platting Commission on Tuesday, Nov. 17. It took the panel only 15 minutes to approve the consent agenda, postpone a couple of items and adjourn. The only notable thing that took place occurred after the meeting, when Commissioner Jackie Goodman unfurled a giant banner, which she presented to her colleagues to sign. It was in honor of Shudde Fath, longtime member of the Electric Utility Commission, who will turn 100 on Jan. 16. The banner was designed by Goodman and Olivia Hayden, the program and development director for the Save Barton Creek Association, the group Fath helped found and for which she subsequently served as treasurer for three decades. Although she stepped down from that position in recent years, Fath still sits on the SBCA board and remains a member of the Electric Utility Commission, on which she has served continuously since her appointment in 1977. “She’s never missed a meeting,” said Goodman.

Mesa mess… A proposal to remove bike lanes and add street parking along Northwest Austin’s Mesa Drive continues to stoke passions on both sides of the issue, with most of the anger being directed at the city (at least if this blog post is to be believed). The city has promised a solution soon, but in the meantime, Bike Austin has planned a rally for Dec. 5 and produced a petition calling for dedicated bike lanes with parking on alternate sides of the street. It has been signed by about 665 people. According to a letter written by the Transportation Department’s Laura Dierenfield and Dipti Borkar-Desai, the original proposal was to “implement and improve a bicycle route system, per the Austin Bicycle Plan.” The revised proposal, after hearing from residents, is to allow parking on both sides of the street and convert an existing bike lane into a “wide shoulder that would serve both on-street parking and non-motorized users.” The letter also provides some historical context: “The original project proposal that was brought to the community on June 24th included restricting parking on the west side of Mesa Drive for the length of the project to provide parking-free bicycle lanes. Local stakeholder feedback resulted in a second proposal of restricted parking on the west side of Mesa south of Knollwood Drive and restricted parking on the east side of Mesa north of Knollwood Drive. This proposal maintained parking-free bicycle lanes and was further discussed at a second meeting held on Sept. 15. While there was some support raised for the proposed parking restrictions to maintain parking-free bicycle lanes, we received strong feedback that parking is light and that having access to on-street parking on both sides of the street outweighs having a parking-free bicycle facility in this location.”

Last of their kind, at least for now… On Nov. 13, City Council approved a moratorium on Type 2 short-term rentals as it considers more changes to the city’s Short Term Rental Ordinance. During their late night deliberations, Council members also drew a distinct line between those applications that did and didn’t get in before that moratorium took effect. According to a recent memo from the city’s Code Department, “16 STR Type 2 Operating Licenses were issued, 5 licenses were denied and 4 applicants withdrew their applications.” Code Department staff is continuing to process 19 applications.

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This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jack Craver and Elizabeth Pagano.

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